Dungeons and Dragons Game Day (4th Edition)

So, Saturday was National Dungeons and Dragons game day, and also the premiere of the 4th edition of the game. I took the time the day after (because I was busy with Star Wars Weekends the day before) to check out the quick start rules for the new edition in the first module released for it.

First module for 4th Edition

I have to say, I kind of like the new edition of the game. It’s slick and simplified, plays a helluva lot like a computer RPG, and really focuses on the players as heroes, as opposed to a first level character being food for rats. I also like that they’ve dumped the memorized spell system, so that wizards aren’t the “Wham! Bam! Can I rest and regain spells now?” characters they used to be.

I’ll write more about it as a I get to know the system better. If you’re interested in hearing what the game sounds like, check out the podcast the folks from Wizards, Penny Arcade, and PVP are doing.

LucasArts Layoffs?

So on Friday, evidently there was a fairly sizable layoff of folks from George Lucas’ game company LucasArts. I have kind of a strong interest in this for two reasons. One is, I have always been a huge fan of really getting to escape into the Star Wars Galaxy, and LucasArts games have pretty consistently been a way to immerse myself into that environment. The other is, I have a close friend that works there, and layoffs are really painful on people whether you get to stay or not.

I’ve seen some interesting theories on why the layoff happened, from Lucasfilm claiming it was just a scheduling thing, to people speculating that the departure of Jim Ward was actually a refocusing of the company to just sell the license to outside developers. (And hey, the replacement for Mr. Ward was a guy from EA, which now owns two of the best Star Wars development houses — Bioware and Pandemic.)

There’s one thing that is driving me nuts about some of the reports I was reading: the articles or the comments keep talking about how LucasArts was producing crappy games the last couple of years. Yet, if you recount the last couple of years of titles, they actually were really high-quality experiences. My personal favorite was “Republic Commando”, a superbly gritty look at the troops of the Republic, which went on to be adapted into novels. But the list could go on, “Battlefront I and II”, “Knights of the Old Republic”, “Lego Star Wars”, “Mercenaries” — there were quite a few good (and often underrated) titles. A lot of the titles were made by third parties, so I’m not sure how they can say LucasArts is refocusing on external development exactly?

It’s going to be interesting to see how this changes the company. One of the things that concerns me is that they might just be shipping all of their production support jobs out of the country.  I’m not protectionist, in that I think we have a global economy now. But I would rather hear companies start admitting that they’re moving in that direction. And it struck me funny yesterday that when they were talking about “The Clone Wars” feature/series yesterday at Star Wars Weekends, that the LucasArts rep said the series was being created at Big Rock Ranch. As far as I know, it’s being developed there, but the bulk of the animation is being done at Lucasfilm Animation in Singapore.

Hot As Mustafar, Star Wars Weekends Blasts Off!

Well, it’s now the volcanically hot month of June in Florida, the skies are smoky from wildfires (though I don’t quite feel like I need Darth Vader’s iron lung suit, as of yet) and Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios have rocketed out of the gate in a big way.

This week was the Fett Fete, with Jeremy Bulloch and Daniel Logan chatting with the ever brilliant host Warwick Davis.

Have to say I’m really liking the new sets at Disney that the characters have for pictures this year. Being able to take a pic with Darth Maul in front of the Theed Generator Hallway is very kewl — especially as the new sets are 3D and not just a cloth backdrop.

There’s also some great preview material of the new “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” animated feature / series, including the opportunity to meet Jedi padawan Ahsoka Tano. I wasn’t that excited about the new series, mostly because I’m sort of turned off by the “Thunderbirds” puppets inspired character design, but having seen one of the action sequences at the “Behind the Force” show at SWW, I’m feeling a bit more like it will be a fun Star Wars experience, kind of akin to the comics, which I have always liked for their fast action and simple character development. (Which makes them much more like the original films than the Expanded Universe novels.)

Check out the pics below.